By Woody Woodrick
You’ve probably heard of landscapes and seascapes in relation to art, but what about a tablescape?
The United Methodist Women of Jackson Christ UMC have turned table decorations into a clever way to share their creativity while raising money for missions.
On March 31, the group held its third Tablescapes dinner. The dinner, which featured world renowned tableware designer Gail Pittman of Ridgeland, attracted 304 women at 38 tables.
“Helen Goldman had gone to one in Birmingham,” said Nancy McGuire, who co-chaired the 2009 event with Mae Garrett. “We thought about it a while, and then decided to try it. The first year we hoped to have 10 tables but had 31.”
McGuire, a former unit president, said she had talked to several previous presidents and learned that members of the unit like working together on projects. “We decided this wouldn’t take too much time or be too much of a burden on the hostesses,” McGuire said.
Members of the UMW volunteer to host a table, and then decorate the table around a general theme, usually incorporating a sort of “sub-theme.” Most tables had at least two hostesses, but some had just one. Sometimes one person serves as hostess, but an entire circle might help.
Hostesses sell tickets to their tables for $15 each. Most of the tickets are sold to UMW members because developing unity is part of the objective. “We like to consider the event a chance to get together as a group,” Garrett said. “We have fun together, and everybody loves pretty things.”
As word of the event spread around the church and community, many other folks voiced their desire to see the tables. This year, tickets were sold to an afternoon preview. In addition, a silent auction was held. In addition, the unit has decided to create a cookbook of the recipes used for the dinner. It will be in a binder so each year’s menu can be added.
“I think it has connected us to women around the world,” McGuire said. “The money we raise here goes to the Mississippi Conference and missions around the world.
“Each circle has a local and a foreign mission that it supports, and the money goes to the circle mission projects.”
This year’s theme was “Who’s at Your Table?” based on Matthew 25:35. The individual table themes varied greatly. They ranged from an outdoors table that featured a miniature deer stand and live fish to a Fourth of July picnic with paper plates to fine china and flowers. Some table settings were quite elaborate, while others were more understated, but all showed impressive creativity.
With Pittman as the guest speaker, one table featured eight place settings with eight different Gail Pittman patterns for dinnerware, vases, crosses and Easter eggs. A table with a western theme featured place cards that resembled “wanted” posters, while another centered on pharmacists.
Garrett said she and McGuire didn’t have a difficult job as co-chairs. “Most everybody does their own thing,” she said. “We arrange a speaker and work with the kitchen staff on a menu.
“A large majority of the women (in UMW) participate because they have a heart for missions. That’s why Nancy and I volunteer.”